November 3, 2011

First Person or Third Person

I'm always curious to know which perspective people enjoy reading the most - first person or third person? For anyone who's not sure what the difference is, first person is when a story is told from one person's individual perspective and through his/her "I" voice and third person can be from one or multiple perspectives but is always told through a he/she narrative.  Obviously, I wrote my novel in third person because I find you can use more descriptive language and aren't stuck to one set-in-stone point of view, but I definitely think there advantages and disadvantages to both. My professors at Johns Hopkins would have heart palpitations if they heard me defending first person, but I really think each writer just has different styles. I would love to write something in first person in the future, but for now, here's my opinion:

First Person


Advantages: First person narratives draw the reader into a very quick and very intimate relationship with the characters because of the "I." As a writer, you can delve very deeply into your protagonists emotions which is a huge plus. First person also lends itself to fabulous humor based characterization and can give the protagonist a really strong, solid voice, which works very well in romance and young adult fiction.

Disadvantages: If the characterization is weak, the book will fall completely flat. More so for me, first person only gives the reader one POV, so the protagonist is describing everything through their own eyes. You can never, for example, describe a scene going on out of the protagonists eyesight and sometimes that can be limiting. I also think it is harder to go off on descriptive tangents in first person, unless that is part of the characters personality.

Third Person


Advantages: I just prefer third person, most likely because that is the style I was educated in and it is the more widely accepted writing style. I think third allows for more descriptive power because you can choose when to write from the protagonist's POV or step out for a moment into a more omniscient perspective. You can focus on plot and action much more easily. While 'Ignite' is totally told through my character Kira's perspective, third also allows you to change perspectives throughout the book which allows for tons of subplots and intrigue.

Disadvantages: You need to pay attention to character more. In first person, the writing is infused with the character's personality, but not so much in third person. You can fall victim to being overly descriptive and writers need to make sure characters still have strong voices. Also, some writers over-use third person and 'head hop' so much that readers can be lost in all the differing perspectives.

What about all of you? What do you prefer to read and write in? Any clear advantages/disadvantages I forgot to list? I'd love to hear what you have to say!

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